Ofex losses mean its departure is likely

In October 2000, 215 companies were listed on Ofex, but this has declined to 140; the capitalisation of these companies fell from £2.9bn in October 2000 to £1.2bn in June 2004. The amount raised by new issuances dropped from £90.3m to £500,000 over the same period, and the number of transactions has fallen from 3,900 in 2000 to 700 so far in 2004. In contrast, new issuers on Aim raised £1bn in 2003, while listed companies attracted another £1bn.

Barry Anysz, manager of the Rensburg VCT, says he will not be sorry to see the Ofex market disappear: “We have not invested in Ofex for a few years. When we held Ofex stocks, we found we could not sell them as there was no liquidity and no market-makers willing to hold shares. The best-managed companies do not need to be on Ofex, but should move to Aim.”

In July, Ofex introduced market-makers, including Teather & Greenwood and Winterflood.

SVM has been trying to move its investment trust away from Ofex stocks to those listed on Aim. In September, it changed the name of SVM Ofex to SVM UK Emerging fund and switched its benchmark to the Aim index. David Stevenson, manager of SVM UK Emerging fund, says about half its 25 holdings are in Aim-listed stocks with the rest in Ofex.

If Ofex does close, investors will retain their stakes, but will have to find a matching buyer before selling their stake. Stevenson says SVM is hopeful that a number of its Ofex holdings will move to Aim if that happens; otherwise, SVM may not be able to realise the value on these stocks.